Product Review: O’BON school supplies

Photo: Photo Courtesey of OBON

The back-to-school shopping list can be daunting, but we’ve found a way to make shopping for supplies fun, educational and, best of all, green. O’BON and its products are something we really got excited about.


Items tested:

  1. O’BONanza Series 2B Pencil Pack (9 pencils $5.00)
  2. O’BONanza A5 journal (80 pages $5.00)
  3. Sugarcane A5 Journal (80 pages $5.00)
  4. Wildlife Color Pencil Pack (12 colours for $6.00)
  5. Bird 1” Binder Iridescence ($6.00)
  6. Newsprint 2B Pencil Pack (10 pencils for $5.00)

Where can the item be purchased? U.S. and Canadian customers can shop online.

The claim of the products:O'BON was founded on the simple idea that basic products, such as pencils and notebooks, could be made much more responsibly, and contribute to making the world a better place.”

What was great about the products:

  • O’BON pencils are made out of recycled newspapers.
  • O’BON uses sugarcane (known as bagasse pulp) an alternative to wood. This renewable resource (remember: renewable means easily replenished) is also used in biofuel.
  • O’BON uses recycled card stock and cardboard in their binders.
  • The images they use on its products are from nature — fresh, luscious fruits; beautiful close-ups of bird feathers — in the hope that kids will see the link between their purchases and the environment.
  • O’BON School Program: as a way to have kids educate kids, O’BON has set up three ways to support children in school activities as they lead environmental learning in their schools. The company even provides materials for the kids to use. Deforestation is a main focus of the materials as O’BON products are produced to help prevent this environmental tragedy. Check it out.
  • O’BON is a partner of Arbor Day.
  • We love that they have an art pencil collection for our budding young artists.

What was NOT so great about the product:

  • As we live in North America, the fact that the company produces its products in China (known for questionable labour practices and weak laws around the use of toxic materials) is tough for us to digest. However, the reason for this is that most of their distribution is in Asia, so shipping from China to their largest market means a smaller carbon footprint. This point is a negative or a positive depending on where you live, but the effort to reduce carbon footprints is something we admire.
  • Though the product cannot be FSC certified (FSC only applies if you need to cut down trees to make your product, but O’BON uses all recycled materials), there are no other third-party logos. For example, we could not find out if their sugarcane was from an organic farm.

Grade from Green Living: B+ (We love the concept and the education that goes with it. We just wish the company had a smaller, North American plant and that it disclosed more information about where its sugarcane comes from).